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Government Shutdown: What’s Closed, Who is Affected?

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 What happens if the government shuts down
Federal agencies braced for a government shutdown as Congress negotiated on reaching a short-term spending deal before a funding deadline at midnight on Friday.

Government shutdowns are rare, especially when one party controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. The last shutdown was in 2013 and lasted 17 days.

If a shutdown happens, many major federal responsibilities, like sending Social Security checks and operating the military, would continue. Each federal agency has a shutdown plan, written in consultation with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the administration would have some wiggle room in what it does.

In general, government operations and employees deemed “essential,” like those in the military and law enforcement, would continue to report to work. It’s a label that applies to more than half of the 2.1 million or so non-postal federal employees.

Those workers would still get paid, but not until after the shutdown ends.

During the 2013 shutdown, 850,000 individuals were furloughed per day, according to the OMB.

Employees in “non-essential” government functions, meanwhile, would stay home and actually be prohibited from showing up. Congress acted to pay those employees after previous shutdowns, but pay is not guaranteed.

Some government programs, such as Social Security payments, are not subject to the appropriations process. Those would continue, though some functions, like processing new Social Security applications, would shut down.

In 2013, federal permitting and environmental reviews were put on hold, along with the processing of import and export license applications and federal loans for small business, families and rural communities. According to the OMB, the shutdown also delayed almost $4 billion in tax refunds.

Here’s how some federal agencies plan to whether a shutdown:

Health and Human Services 

HHS would have to put about half of its 82,000 staff on furlough.

Larger programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and disability insurance would be largely unaffected by a government shutdown, and current beneficiaries would continue to receive their benefits.

But processing new applications for these programs could slow because there would be fewer employees around to do them.

The FDA would have to cancel the majority of its food safety, nutrition and cosmetics activities, including routine food safety inspections. The CDC, meanwhile, would be unable to support its annual seasonal flu program during one of the most severe flu outbreaks in recent history and could stop tracking disease outbreaks.

The National Institutes of Health would continue patient care for current cancer patients but would not admit new patients or accept new grant proposals.

National Park Service

The national parks became a lightning rod in the 2013 government shutdown. Parks around the country were closed, and many, including some areas of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that are managed by the Park Service, were barricaded.

The Trump administration may be able to avoid that scenario. The Washington Post reported that administration officials are exploring ways to keep parks open and let visitors come in.

“In the event of a shutdown, national parks and other public lands will remain as accessible as possible while still following all applicable laws and procedures,” Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said in a statement.

“Visitors who come to our nation’s capital will find war memorials and open-air parks open to the public. Nationally, many of our national parks, refuges and other public lands will still allow limited access wherever possible.”

Other Interior Department activities would have to shut down. The Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, for example, would not process oil-drilling permits.

Department of Defense

At the Pentagon, military personnel should expect to show up to work during a shutdown, but not expect any pay for the duration.

“No one gets paid. The civilians who report to duty do not get paid. The military who are in theater do not get paid. They earn the rights to the payment, but the payment cannot be made until the shutdown is over,” Defense Department Comptroller David Norquist told reporters last month.

Speaking at the Pentagon on Dec. 7, then ahead of a possible shutdown, Norquist said civilians should also expect to show up for work if their job falls under “excepted activities,” positions related to the protection of life and property.

The fiscal halt also extends to the death benefits received by families of military members killed in the line of duty. Weapons system maintenance and readiness training, meanwhile, would also come to a stop unless it is deemed an “excepted activity.”

State Department

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said Thursday that officials were developing contingency plans, while Secretary Rex Tillerson‘s office was reviewing the agency’s options.

“We will be prepared for all contingencies, I want to make that clear, including the possibility of a lapse,” Nauert said at a press briefing, noting that Tillerson would ultimately have discretion over how the department deals with a shutdown.

Most Americans only come in contact with the State Department when trying to obtain or renew passports. In 2013, however, passport offices, which are funded by fee revenue, remained open.

Internal Revenue Service

A large percentage of the IRS’s workforce is expected to stop working during a shutdown, though the upcoming filing season may mean that more employees are still working than otherwise would be the case.

The IRS’s document for non-filing season shutdowns states that only about 13 percent of employees would continue working. While the 2018 filing season officially opens on Jan. 29, the document describes the filing season period as Jan. 1 through April 30.

The document notes that “historically, more exempted employees are required during the filing season to ensure activities related to executing the filing season are worked.”

IRS activities that continue during the filing season include testing of filing-season programs, processing of paper tax returns and design and printing of tax year forms.

Financial regulation

A government shutdown would halt most of the federal government’s oversight of financial trading. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) would both be forced to furlough thousands of workers responsible for monitoring financial markets. Only SEC and CFTC staffers involved in law enforcement activities or protecting “life or property” would continue working.

All other regulatory and supervisory function of the Wall Street watchdog would pause until Congress funds the government again.

Other financial sector regulators won’t be affected by a shutdown. The Federal Reserve system, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are all independently funded and would continue their oversight of the banking system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Credit Union Administration are also independently funded and would stay open during the crisis.

Federal Communications Commission

Like other agencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates telecommunications providers like AT&T and Verizon as well as broadcasters, would roll back its staff to essential employees only, furloughing the vast majority of its 1,492 employees.

The agency says it expects to retain roughly 37 employees during the shutdown to cover essential matters like critical IT issues, protect property and handle emergency communications and functions related to national security.

The FCC would keep an additional 185 employees whose pay does not come from congressional appropriations to keep the agency’s spectrum auction activities up and running.

The agency’s chairman and four commissioners would also continue to work through the shutdown.

In the interim, the agency would cease some operations, including issuing new broadcast licenses and processing equipment certifications for new electronic devices.

Courts

The Supreme Court would not only remain open to visitors but carry on with business as usual in the event of a shutdown.

“In the event of a lapse of appropriations, the Court will continue to conduct its normal operations, and the Court building will be open to the public during its usual hours,” Kathleen Arberg, the court’s public information officer, said in a statement to The Hill.

“The Court will rely on non-appropriated funds, as it has in the past, to maintain operations through the duration of short-term lapses of appropriations.”

Federal district, appeals and bankruptcy courts across the country will also remain open, relying on court fees and appropriations that aren’t tied to a specific year.

“The judiciary is able to sustain paid operations through court fees and no-year appropriations for approximately three weeks, or through Feb. 9,” Charles Hall, a spokesman in the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said in an email.

Department of Justice

If there is a government shutdown, the 114,647 employees at the Justice Department as of Sept. 8 would drop to 95,102 for the first five calendar days. The rest of the workers would be furloughed, according to the agency’s latest contingency plan.

Because the Justice Department is comprised of about 40 components tasked with a broad array of national security, law enforcement and criminal justice system responsibilities, the agency said that it has a high percentage of activities and employees that can continue working during a lapse in appropriations.

Capitol Hill

The Capitol would become a ghost town during a shutdown, offering a regular reminder to lawmakers of the consequences.

Fewer Capitol police officers would report for duty, while those working would do so without pay. Only “essential” staff would be required to work, making it harder for offices to handle the sudden flood of constituent phone calls.

Most committee activity would be suspended, as would Capitol tours.

Depending on the length of the shutdown, senators would be forced to walk past a frozen clock in a hallway outside the chamber — the staff responsible for winding it would be furloughed, too. In 2013, the clock’s hands were stuck at 12:14 for days until the government reopened.

Mueller investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election would continue since its funding does not come from annual appropriations.

Smithsonian Institution

Smithsonian museums along the National Mall and the National Zoo will remain open through the weekend, the institution said Thursday.

But if the shutdown extends to Monday, all of its public facilities, including the popular web cameras that broadcast animals at the zoo, would have to close. Many of the behind-the-scenes operations, such as feeding animals, have been deemed essential and would continue.

Transportation Security Administration

The Transportation Security Administration will continue operations in the event of a government closure, according to one official, with security functions and air marshals still in place.

Federal Aviation Administration

The government shutdown is not expected to delay flights or have an impact on the airline industry. Air traffic control, which is run by the Federal Aviation Administration, would still operate, while most of the agency’s aviation safety inspectors would keep working.

Photo/Getty Images

Source:  The Hill

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Politics

Trump Tweets About an ‘Insecure’ and ‘Biased’ Oprah Winfrey Over Her ’60 Minutes’ Segment

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Oprah Winfrey in a 60 minutes segment with a voter focus group on America’s political divide.  (Photo Courtesy of CBS News).

Donald Trump venting over the FBI and the Russia investigation took to Twitter on Sunday night in a tweetstorm attack on Oprah Winfrey following her “60 Minutes” segment on America’s political divide. Despite his denial of spending time watching television, his response to Winfrey stated otherwise.

“Just watched a very insecure Oprah Winfrey, who at one point I knew very well, interview a panel of people on 60 Minutes,” tweeted Trump, “The questions were biased and slanted, the facts incorrect. Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!”

Winfrey’s report followed up her September segment featuring the same panel of Trump voters and non-Trump voters in the battleground state of Michigan. The goal of the segment was to understand their thoughts on his presidency and direction of the country one year after he took office.

In the wake of Winfrey’s historic #MeToo speech during the Golden Globes in January, an #Oprah2020 movement took root, with many stars – including Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg – calling on Winfrey to consider running. Days later, Trump addressed the speculation, telling the press, “Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah.”

In 1999, Trump thought Winfrey would be a good running mate.  At the time Trump said: “I know her very well. You know, I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump – this was before politics – her last week, and she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice.”

Oprah Winfrey, despite earlier rumors of a presidential bid, has been clear that she has no intention of running for president.  Making it clear on her intentions she said in a 60 Minutes overtime clip separate from Sunday’s report. “If God actually wanted me to run, wouldn’t God kind of tell me?”

@LeNoraMillen       02-20-18

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Lifestyle

Dodge MLK Super Bowl Ad Sparks Controversy

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A Dodge Super Bowl ad has attracted criticism for its use of a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks.

The ad featured a section of King’s The Drum Major Instinct sermon delivered February 4, 1968, overtop images of American patriotism, including America’s military and other service jobs like teachers and firefighters.

“If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant,” King is heard saying in the ad. “That’s a new definition of greatness.”

The ad, which ran in support of the Ram Nation volunteer program, also featured images of Dodge trucks. On airing, it began to get immediate blowback.

“The use of MLK to promote Ram trucks strikes many people as crass and inappropriate,” Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University told the Associated Press.

Bernice A. King, the youngest child of the civil rights leader and his wife Coretta Scott King urged people to listen to the sermon “in its entirety.”

“Please listen to/read his speeches, sermons, and writings. Understand his comprehensive teachings and his global perspective. Study his nonviolent philosophy. It’s more than a tactic,” she tweeted, providing a link to the sermon.

A social media user took that message to heart and created a different version of the ad with King’s warning to his congregation from the same sermon that advertisers pressure them to buy more than they can afford, playing on their selfishness and the “drum major instinct” that pushes them to prove that they are better than others.

King said: “They have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying. In order to be a man of distinction, you must drink this whiskey. In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car. In order to be lovely to love, you must wear this kind of lipstick or this kind of perfume. And you know, before you know it, you’re just buying that stuff (…) That’s the way the advertisers do it.”

King said people end up living “their lives trying to outdo the Joneses” rather than building communities around themselves.

The Dodge ad also appeared to some to contradict what King stood for as he famously argued for U.S. military spending to be cut and instead go to programs that served the poorest Americans.

“Are MLK’s words really being used right now to sell cars?” wrote Nicholas Thompson, the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine in response to the ad on Twitter.

The King Center distanced itself from the ad, pointing out it was not responsible for approving the use of King’s image and words,

Fiat Chrysler said it worked with King’s estate on the ad, which licenses King’s image and speeches, and is run by King’s son Dexter Scott King. The estate’s managing director, Eric D. Tidwell, said in a statement early Monday: “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”

Source: Newsweek

@LeNoraMillen            02-05-18

 

 

 

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Politics

Three Questions About the FISA Court Answered

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The E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse houses the FISA court. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci).

On Feb. 2, President Donald Trump allowed the release of the previously classified “Nunes memo.” The memo, written by Republican congressional aides, criticized information used as the basis for a FISA court surveillance application related to the Mueller probe into Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 election.

But what exactly is the FISA court? And how does it work?

  1. When was the FISA court established?

Congress passed FISA or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978. FISA was originally introduced by Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. The act was largely a response to President Richard Nixon’s misuse of federal resources to investigate U.S. citizens.

Its purpose was to provide oversight for foreign intelligence surveillance activities. These might include tracing telephone and email use, conducting physical searches or accessing business records. FISA lays out guidelines and procedures for these activities.

FISA applies only to “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers.” Basically, this means that FISA is used to gather information about people who work for the governments of other countries. Investigators are typically not allowed to target U.S. citizens under FISA. In fact, if information about a U.S. citizen is accidentally discovered, the law requires those records to be destroyed.

There are some notable exceptions.  One is when the discovered information shows that there is a threat of death or serious harm to another person. Another is that officials can wiretap U.S. citizens while they are overseas. Importantly, FISA warrants can also be requested to monitor U.S. citizens believed to be acting on behalf of a foreign power.

As part of FISA, Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court.

The FISA court is a U.S. federal court whose purpose is to review and rule on search warrant requests made under FISA. Each year, the FISA court is required to provide a report to Congress of its activities. These reports include the number of requests made under FISA, but not the content of those requests. That content is not a matter of public record.

  1. How is FISA court different from other courts?

FISA court is not like a typical criminal court.

First, Department of Justice officials seeking a warrant do not need to show evidence that a crime has occurred or is about to happen. That sort of evidence, also known as probable cause, would be needed to obtain a typical search warrant in criminal court. Instead, officials only need to provide evidence that the target of surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.

Second, investigators can conduct surveillance for up to a year without a court order if authorized by the president. For this to occur, the U.S. Attorney General has to certify to the court that there is minimal risk that the investigation will turn up information about U.S. citizens. The U.S. Attorney General must also certify to the court that the target of the investigation is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. These requirements parallel what Department of Justice officials would need to demonstrate in FISA court in order to obtain a FISA court warrant.

Third, the FISA court is closed to the public. Unlike a criminal court, there is no jury and the government is the only party present. In other words, FISA court proceedings do not involve prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing on behalf of clients. The FISA court is simply hearing the requests of officials seeking search warrants. This is very similar to what happens when local law enforcement officials seek a search warrant.

However, FISA court records are not open to the public. In rare cases, some records have been released with redacted information. The U.S. president also has the authority to declassify information at his discretion. This is different from normal police investigations, where search warrants generally become public record unless sealed by a judge.

While many state criminal court judges are electedFISA court judges are appointed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, currently Justice John Roberts.

The eleven FISA judges are selected from across the U.S. federal circuits. These judges may serve for a maximum of seven years. Since not all judges are required at any one time, FISA court judges perform their duties on a rotating basis. They don’t serve full time on the FISA court.

One similarity to a typical criminal court is that an appeals process is available. If a FISA court judge denies a search request, that judge must explain the reasons for the denial. Then, a panel of three federal judges appointed by the chief justice reviews the search request. This panel is called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. If the request is again denied, the U.S. Supreme Court has the authority to review the decision. There is no option for appeal by the person being investigated because he or she is unaware of the surveillance.

  1. How many cases does the FISA court handle?

In 2016, the FISA court reviewed 1,485 requests for surveillance. While higher than the number of requests reviewed in 2014 (1,379) and 2015 (1,457), the number of requests has remained at 1,200 or higher since 2001.

It is rare for these requests to be denied. Of the requests made in 2016, only 34 were rejected. In most years, no requests were denied.

Since the proceedings of the court are secret, it is unclear why these denials occurred or why so few cases were denied.

It is also unclear how the current controversy over the Nunes memo will affect FISA operations in the future, if at all.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, Pennsylvania State University—Lacey Wallace contributed to this report.  Wallace does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: The Conversation

@LeNoraMillen       02-05-18

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